Two years to the day – and then some!
Is it any wonder that developers are driven into the arms of Government Inspectors? It is not surprising to some that the council’s planning function is threatened by being taken into Special Measures.
Last night the eastern area planning committee sat to determine a scheme for 12 Cranleigh homes, some shared ownership and some for rent, as an extension to the existing Cala Homes development in Amlets Lane, using the same access – and they deferred it for more information!
So, in other words – after two years, a scheme that has languished in the darkest bowels of Waverley’s Planning department has now been deferred for – yep, you guessed …
“more information and for a new council to determine.”
However, when the committee gets the developer information it requires, if it hasn’t pulled its hair out from the roots, a completely new committee will consider it following the May elections.
It could be July, perhaps even August, or maybe longer – why rush? The Waverley Web can’t understand why developers don’t just go straight to appeal on the grounds of non-determination and seek the return of their planning fees.
Although the site plan shown to councillors included access from the new development through the existing Amlets Park entrance, there were 20 minutes of debate on where the new access would be. You couldn’t make it up!
Cllr Liz Townsend slammed the scheme, saying officers had not adequately considered the council’s policies in the recently published Local Plan Part 2. This included water quality and proper disposal of sewage on an already overburdened system. Cranleigh had taken 1,700 new homes, and the water and sewage issues concerned residents, including many objectors. She didn’t mention if the scheme had been considered in 2021 or even 2022; the scheme was included in The Cranleigh Neighbourhood Plan but pulled out because Waverley Planners had pushed other schemes ahead of it, despite being lodged much later, such as 38 homes on the David Manns Site in Cranleigh High Sreet. What is going on at Waverley Towers? Favouring developers – surely not?
Despite all the Cranleigh councillor’s protestations about water quality, or the lack of water or sewage capacity, there was no objection from Thames Water or Surrey Highways concerning the access.
Cllr Townsend is the Portfolio Holder for Planning – why didn’t she seek the information required from officers recommending the scheme? Perhaps she thought pushing it into the long grass or the Cranleigh waters for a few more months; a new council would turn it down flat?
Cllr Steve Cosser and Cllr Michael Goodridge claimed the scheme should be approved in outline, and other issues should be addressed when the detailed planning application was considered later. Cllr Townsend’s concerns were not planning issues,
“It is impertinence to say that we should defer this application so we can look at our policies again and come up with more reasons to refuse; there are no planning reasons to refuse this application and refusal will not stand up at any appeal” said Mr Goodridge.
Cllr Chris Howard called in the scheme but was absent from the meeting and is not seeking re-election.
6 thoughts on “How long does it take Waverley Planners to hear a planning application?”
Few issues are not planning issues. The National Planning Policy Framework should be read as a whole (including its footnotes and annexes). Planning decisions must reflect relevant international obligations such as the Aarhus Convention and the statutory requirement for sustainable development through good design. There are very few issues that are not planning yet many for convenience try to work in a silo and ignore the fractures.
The planning system is in failure mode because it is underfunded, overly complex and lacking competent resources, which leads to inevitable delays and bad design such as developments without adequate utilities. Planning is broken in too many places and urgently needs a national fix. A good start would realistic planning application charges together with the often-absent planning condition monitoring and enforcement.
Whilst we agree with much of what you say, perhaps you could explain WHY some fairly straightforward applications languish within the planning department of Waverley, and others don’t. Why are some developers using their own planning officers to avoid the queue? We have information on a number of planning applications in Cranleigh that have long been consented to while others have been ignored.
What is described for Cranleigh is disturbing and grossly unfair no one should jump the queue. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 and Environmental information Regulations 2004 could be used to gain transparency for this concern. Primary responsibility for fairness and governance lies with the Executive and secondary responsibility lies with the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
Government statutory guidance is that Overview and Scrutiny Committees hold an authority’s decision-makers to account they are fundamentally important to the successful functioning of local democracy. “Effective scrutiny helps secure the efficient delivery of public services and drives improvements within the authority itself. Conversely, poor scrutiny can be indicative of wider governance, leadership and service failure.”
The Overview and Scrutiny Committee of the next administration should be asked to scrutinise this planning unfairness concern. In communicating scrutiny’s role to the public authorities should ensure scrutiny has a profile in the wider community. Those seeking election might care to declare their position on this critical issue.
You cannot run an effective planning department where meost of the officers work from home, all officers need to discuss applications at team meetings where all information files are available and experienced officers are able to provide invaluable advice. The Executive are ultimately responsible for the situation and must undertake a rigorous action plan to address the problem.
The WW wholeheartedly agree. The planning department should hang its head in shame! The way this planning application was dealt with was an utter disgrace.
This is a total disgrace. £900,000 of our council tax money in the last five years, another £100,000 just signed off for further appeals and two years for a very simple application. It is the Council management and overview by councillors that is totally ineffective. I hope that the Council is designated as special measures and that this leads to some action. Something for the new councillors to consider post election…